Picking the right pass forward

This is an 8v8 passing session, plus keepers, that aims to teach teams the benefit of positive forward play.

For me, the notion of passing the ball forwards and making the right choice of pass is central to a good understanding of the game. It reinforces a positive attacking mindset and, of course, increases the opportunity to score goals.

This session progresses by subtly changing the parameters throughout, and we’re constantly looking for players to change and adapt their play in order to maximise attacking options.


60×40 yards
Balls, cones, goals
Number of Players
Session time
Session 20mins
Progression 30mins

What do I get the players to do?

We divide a 60×40-yard area into three equal sections, with a full-size goal at each end. There is a plentiful supply of balls. Defenders must remain in their sections at all times, but for other outfield positions it’s free play.

The coach stands off the pitch at half way, and serves the first ball into any of the three areas. If it goes to a defender, he must pass through to the middle third (1a) for an attacking move to build (1b). Should the ball go straight to a midfielder, he must pass into the final third, while a ball arriving at the feet of a striker can be fired at goal straight away. There should be no backwards passing.


• The coach serves the ball to a defender, who passes into the middle third


• The midfielder moves past his man and threads a pass into a striker, who links well to set up the shooting chance

If, from an attack, a keeper takes possession, he passes to a defender (1c); while if the ball goes out of play, the coach serves a new one in.


• A keeper in possession must feed the ball to one of his defenders as the attacking move builds from back to front

What are the key things to look out for?

We look for players passing quickly and receiving on the half turn, and make sure they’re looking for team mates at all times. If a receiving player cannot turn and progress up the pitch, then the pass shouldn’t go to him.

Strikers must be on the move at all times, with midfielders not in possession making frequent supporting runs.

How do I progress the session?

To move the session on, keepers can now play direct into the middle third, so look for midfielders making themselves free for longer passes. We’ll then relax the conditions further by allowing the keeper to play direct into strikers (2), should he wish.


• When using the progressions though, keepers now have the option of feeding midfielders or strikers direct

Next, we will add two wide players for each team (3a). They stand outside the touchline in the respective attacking thirds, and can act as alternative forward options, linking with their two attacking team mates in the middle to provide potential overload options. They cannot enter the main playing area nor pass backwards, and must cross the ball in attacking situations (3b).


• Adding in wide players offers useful wing options when attacking


• Here, the winger cannot play backwards, but can float a lofted cross for his strikers to attack

By the final progression, we’re asking players whether they are going to pass it through midfield, go long, or look for wide options. The choice is theirs, as long as the pass isn’t backwards.

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